Jennifer discusses studying International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response
Discovering the International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response course at the University of Manchester sparked a journey of educational and personal development that I could only have dreamt of at the time. After various stints in several organisations, time spent travelling, and even a previous degree attempt at a different university, I took to Google in search of an answer to the life-long question of what I could do with myself professionally. I had always felt extremely lost in this respect and all I knew is that I wanted to make a positive impact in some way. Reading all the module details, I couldn’t believe I had never considered a career in humanitarianism! Each topic resonated with me, and the broad scope of the course really stood out to me as someone who was extremely interested in many things, but still unsure of what career path to take.
I could not wait to get started and I am very happy to say that I have not been disappointed. Despite my first year taking place during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and all learning being online, I still thoroughly enjoyed the academic year. Modules such as ‘Introduction to Conflict Analysis’ and ‘Institutions and Governance’ surprised me in how much I enjoyed them as words like analysis and governance made me think it could be boring, but boy was I wrong! The Conflict Analysis module taught me the many theories surrounding violence as well as important historical content regarding topics such as colonialism, religion, politics and more. Institutions and Governance delved into the structure and responsibility of global organisations such as the United Nations and the World Bank, which opened my eyes to some of the core principles and processes on which our world relies. This module also delved into world leaders and how different locations are ruled. Such topics linked extremely well with the other modules, ‘Key Concepts in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response’, ‘Introduction to Disaster Management’, and ‘Introduction to Humanitarianism’. This is because international laws and national governing bodies shape the behaviour of the population and interlink with many social, political, and economical topics. Additionally, this is relevant to how one mitigates and prepares for, responds to, and recovers from a disaster, how conflicts arise and cease, and the level of success of peacebuilding efforts, all on local, national, and international scales.
I have found from my first year of this course that everything is very contemporary and to begin to tackle some of society’s biggest issues, one must gain a wide understanding of how these issues affect one another; something this course certainly helps you with through providing a large variety of topics, inspiration for further research, and learning methods. How we were assessed is another aspect of the course I welcomed; all coursework – no exams! – and some innovative assignment tasks which were engaging and gave some freedom for creativity. Even the assignments that had a normal essay structure had a minimum of four essay questions to choose from, something I found really rewarding as this allowed me to focus my research and writing on topics that I found particularly engaging or wanted to learn more about.
A piece of advice I would offer is to be prepared for the distressing content on the course. As you will be aware, the case studies and examples necessary for the disaster and humanitarian field are not of light content, which at times I found difficult to deal with. Ensure you rely on your support network, find the time for a fun active hobby, don’t read up on genocide or the Holocaust just before bed, and maybe follow a positive page on Instagram for a daily dose of happiness!
Overall, I found that my first year of the International Disaster Management and Humanitarian Response course was everything I had hoped for and more. I found every subject extremely interesting, and the comprehensive subject matter has allowed me to swap my confusion of not knowing what I want to do for unlimited options regarding the direction in which to take my career, and I am now very excited about my professional future.